The vibrant city of Gilroy is one of the hidden treasures in Northern California, a place with natural wonders, festive celebrations, and an inviting community.
It’s located near the bustling city of San Jose and is considered as the southernmost city in the San Francisco Bay Area, even though its location is already nearer to Monterey Bay.
Because of this setting, the town enjoys balmy weather and many sunny days characteristic of the region.
This pleasant climate, combined with the area’s fertile soils, has made Gilroy a thriving agricultural city.
In fact, it’s dubbed as the Garlic Capital of the World, thanks to its flourishing garlic production.
It also has an excellent wine scene, with many vineyards sprouting along the city's outskirts.
So whether you’re a foodie, nature lover, or adventurer, you’ll have something to enjoy during your visit to this charming destination.
Here are the 15 best things to do in Gilroy, CA:
Go Fishing in Coyote Lake Harvey Bear Ranch County Park
Located on the hills east of Gilroy’s city proper, Coyote Lake Harvey Bear Ranch County Park is a natural attraction easily accessible from town.
This expansive destination covers 6,695 acres of land, with the pristine Coyote Lake taking up 449 acres.
Thanks to undisturbed surroundings, this park has become a refuge for many of Northern California’s native species.
So while exploring the trails, keep an eye out for the rare western pond turtle, Bay checkerspot butterfly, California tiger salamander, and the majestic bald eagle.
The lake is also filled with wildlife and world-class game, such as black bass, Eurasian crappie, and bluegill.
Nonmotorized and motorized watercraft are allowed, so you can board whichever you prefer for angling escapades.
If you’re not ready to get wet just yet, you’re welcome to try mountain biking along the trails surrounding the lake.
Or you can simply have a picnic in one of the many campsites in the park.
Tour the Halls of Gilroy Museum
To understand the city’s history and how it connects with the other attractions and festivals, you can make a stopover at the Gilroy Museum.
This unassuming facility preserves the storied past of Gilroy by showcasing artifacts from various eras of the city.
Within the 1910 Carnegie Library Building, you’ll find photographs, collections, and items that tell a story of Gilroy, from the first settlers to recent history.
And since the museum is located in an old library, you can expect lots of books and other reading materials that document in detail various important events.
If you’re a history buff, you’ll find a tiny little paradise among the shelves.
Sample Fine Drinks at Satori Cellars
While it’s separated from the San Fernando Valley by the Henry W. Coe State Park, Gilroy still has a climate conducive for growing grapes.
That’s why the city is also known for the fine bottles produced by local wineries.
One of the most visited is Satori Cellars, a local business with a long list of award-winning wines.
Upon arrival, you’d discover a riot of colors on their establishment, which is part of the whimsical and friendly atmosphere the owners have created.
The vineyards are a marvel to behold, but their premium bottles are the real treat.
You can join a tasting tour to sample their merlots, whites, cabernet francs, and other varieties.
You’ll be more than eager to bring home a bottle or two after a few sips of these amazing drinks.
Try Garlic Ice Cream During the Gilroy Garlic Festival
In the middle of summer, throngs of people from all over the country come to the city to join the jubilant Gilroy Garlic Festival.
This three-day event is one of the most well-known food festivals in the country, attracting hundreds of thousands of visitors annually.
Because who wouldn’t like to sample the unique garlic ice cream?
You may think that the pungent herb should never be placed near a frozen treat, but most people who’ve tried it found the flavor profile extremely tasty.
Aside from ice cream, you’ll find other dishes with a garlic twist during the festival, such as fries, pasta, bread, and even drinks!
There are also many booths offering garlic-themed artworks, furniture, costumes, and of course, braids of best-quality garlic.
Make sure to bring home a bunch or two to add to your pantry.
See the Unusual Rides of Gilroy Gardens Family Theme Park
The quirky Gilroy Gardens Family Theme Park is not your regular amusement facility.
This attraction combines elements of botanical gardens, sculptures, and thrilling rides to create a one-of-a-kind attraction for the whole family.
With their slogan, “The Fun Grows on Trees,” the park has incorporated its attractions into living plants, giving the illusion that the rides do grow on trees.
So you’re going to see lots of plant-themed rides, water features surrounded by trees, and many other sights.
One of the signature elements of the park is the sculpted trees, carefully shaped over the years so that their trunks create unusual shapes.
You’ll find these on the gardens, trails, and next to the thrilling rides!
So keep an eye out and document all the quirky trees you’ll discover.
Play with Big Birds at Gilroy Ostrich Farm
While Gilroy doesn’t have an official zoo, Gilroy Ostrich Farm is the closest equivalent.
This attraction houses an incredible array of animals, including one of the largest number of ostriches in California.
The farm is located far from the city proper, with plenty of verdant space where the creatures can roam around and play.
While visiting, you’ll encounter goats, alpacas, cows, rabbits, and large ostriches.
You can pet, feed, and snuggle with them, as they are used to people and are often friendly enough.
Bounce All Day at Rockin’ Jump Gilroy
If the temperatures are too hot or on the rare occasion that it rains in Gilroy, there are still other places you can go that aren’t affected by the weather.
Rockin’ Jump Gilroy is one of these destinations, and it’s open all year round, unlike the other seasonal attractions in the city.
Being a spacious trampoline park, this facility has many sections for various activities, most of which involve bouncing and jumping.
It’s the perfect place to exercise while also having fun!
The classic Jump Arena is the main attraction, covered in power trampolines in every corner.
Other sections have been modified to allow kids and kids at heart to play basketball or dodgeball on a bouncy surface.
If you want something more challenging, the rock climbing wall is perfect for testing your endurance and upper-body strength.
Play Sports at Las Animas Park Veterans Park
The scenic Las Animas Park Veterans Park is another community recreation facility dedicated to soldiers who served the country.
With an area of 31 acres, it’s one of the largest green spaces in the city center, making it a hotspot for those who want peace from busy lives.
There’s a lot of modern amenities and attractions as well, adding to the overall experience for visitors.
You’re welcome to join games on the basketball and tennis courts, baseball and diamond fields, and horseshoe pit.
There’s even a well-paved skatepark for those who like to shred on ramps and rails, features that are present on the particular section.
But if you want something more relaxed, there are picnic benches and shady spots overlooking Llagas Creek.
You can stay there for as long as you want and listen to the gurgling waters.
Go Hiking at Debell Uvas Creek Preserve
The gorgeous Debell Uvas Creek Preserve was a sand and gravel mining spot in the past, but the people of Gilroy saw how it changed the beautiful surroundings.
So restoration and conservation efforts were made, resulting in the beauty that is Debell Uvas Creek Preserve.
Within the 125-acre greenbelt, you’d find small patches of forests, meadows, and the meandering Uvas Creek cutting its way across the landscape.
It irrigates the surrounding land, resulting in lush vegetation frequented by nature-lovers.
There are multiple trails in the park that allow visitors to explore the hidden wonders.
So if you’re looking for a peaceful attraction that’s still near the city, the preserve is your best bet.
The wildflowers blooming during spring and summer are just some of the magnificent sights waiting for you here.
Find Fresh Produce at Gilroy Farmers Market
For those who want to partake in the bountiful harvests of Gilroy, make a stopover at the Gilroy Farmers Market.
This gathering of vendors, farmers, and growers opens every Saturday.
You’ll find rows and rows of stalls offering the best-quality produce from this side of California.
Check out seasonal vegetables, fruits of all kinds, and premium root crops from nearby fields.
The stalls of local businesses also have preserves, gourmet coffee, bunches of fresh flowers, and baked goods.
And if you miss the Gilroy Garlic Festival, the farmers market is the second-best place to find the quality garlic of the city.
On occasion, the local wineries will have their own stalls where you can purchase some of their finest bottles.
Marvel at the Petroglyphs of Chitactac-Adams Heritage County Park
The gorgeous Chitactac-Adams Heritage County Park is another natural attraction in Gilroy, sitting near the northwest borders of the city.
It’s a small, 4.5-acre destination covered with trees and a few open spaces for sightseeing.
But unlike the other more developed parks in the city, Chitactac-Adams Heritage County Park is left underdeveloped to preserve its culturally significant attractions.
These include ancient petroglyphs and bedrock mortars carved by native inhabitants thousands of years ago.
Since there are a few other places in the region with features like this, the park has been the subject of immense conservation efforts.
You can view these artifacts by following a specific path that winds around them.
To learn more about the ancient art, check out the interpretive center and read about the park's history.
Have a Fun Family Day at Christmas Hill Park
There are quite a few community gathering spots in Gilroy, and one of the most visited ones is Christmas Hill Park.
This heavily wooded attraction is frequented because of its many amenities, which allow people to play sports, hold events, and bond with their families.
Within the 51-acre area, you’d find soccer fields, baseball and softball diamonds, and a ranch addition for horseback riding.
There’s also an educational center on the ranch, allowing you to learn more about the history and wildlife of the area.
Make sure to check out the well-paved multi-use trails that go into the park's pine forests.
You’re welcome to take nature walks, go jogging, or ride a bike along these scenic paths.
See Wildflowers at Hunting Hollow
The magnificent Hunting Hollow is a little-known attraction skirting the borders of Henry W. Coe State Park.
This hiking area starts at the confluence of creeks, most notably the Coyote Creek, a tributary of Coyote Lake.
From here, hikers can take either one of two trails and head to the ridges surrounding Hunting Hollow, a small, forested valley.
During spring, many people come here to view the wildflowers, as the slopes are usually covered in tiny blooms or various colors.
It’s a rare and magical sight unknown to many, so make sure that you come here before it becomes too crowded.
Practice Your Swing at Eagle's Ridge Golf Club
Do you love playing golf, or are you interested in learning?
Eagle's Ridge Golf Club is a good option.
It's a hidden gem in Northern California.
Eagle's Ridge, amid the foothills of Monterey Wine Country, is one of the best golf courses in Silicon Valley and offers a breathtaking round of golf.
This championship course's undulating hills and lakes provide a formidable challenge for golfers across the course's 18 holes.
It also offers lessons and features a driving range, a practice bunker, and two putting greens.
Guests may enjoy a variety of dishes and drinks, including an extensive wine list, in the hotel's restaurant and bar.
Catch a Performance at Limelight Actors Theater
Limelight Actors Theater offers its patrons extraordinary productions.
In a cozy cabaret setting, we provide a range of entertaining performances.
Its "thrust stage" configuration seats just two tables deep, on three sides of the stage, bringing the audience closer to the action.
It also has a cutting-edge lighting system.
You and your companions may interact and take in the atmosphere while enjoying your food and drink (or ordering in from a caterer) with its "Bring Your Own Dinner & Wine" (or catering) promotion.
It has also increased the alcoholic beverages available to complement your meal or evening at the theater.
The theater opens one and a half hours before showtime to provide patrons time to arrive, purchase tickets, and enjoy a meal or drink before the performance.
Bring the Whole Family to Gilroy Rodeo
Aside from its garlic, visitors flock to Gilroy for its newly revived rodeo.
The Gilroy Rodeo has been going strong since 1930 and used to be a community event that filled a stadium every June.
The last rodeo took place in 1956.
In 2017, after a 62-year absence, Erik Martin and his wife Kendra sought to revive western culture in Gilroy by restoring the rodeo.
In 2018, the rodeo returned to the south bay area, where the traditional rodeo cowboy traditions met the current cutting-edge culture.
The GR tagline, "where the past meets the present," reflects its eclectic mix of activities for everyone to enjoy.
Visit the Exhibits of Gallery 1202
In the fall of 2019, Emily McEwan-Upright opened a gallery in the San Francisco Bay Area called Gallery 1202.
The gallery stands at the Neon Exchange, a coworking space in the heart of historic downtown Gilroy that caters specifically to women.
In addition to its eight annual in-gallery shows and six online exhibitions, Gallery 1202 also participates in four to five yearly art fairs around the United States.
The gallery's goal is to promote underrepresented artists worldwide while providing a safe and inviting venue for the local community.
The gallery strives to raise the profile of underrepresented artists, such as women and people of color and working artists with young children.
It also supports those who employ nontraditional techniques or explore nonmainstream themes or perspectives.
You may purchase a set of high-quality books documenting our previous exhibitions.
As of the summer of 2020, you can see each of its physical displays in 3-D.
Sample Local Beer at Promised Land Brewing Company
Located in a business park north of Highway, The Promised Land Brewing Company has a brewery and a taproom.
There are 17 different beers to choose from, including ales, lagers, and experimental blends of flavors from other cultures.
Promised Land Brewing Company is indeed on the smaller side.
Still, if you're looking for local, fresh, and excellent brews in downtown Gilroy, there's no better place to be.
Whether you're in the mood for a hoppy, mellow, or fruity brew, this brewery has you covered.
You may have your beverages in peace, knowing they will provide a water bowl for your dog if you bring it along.
Food truck visits mean hungry customers can always get something delicious and new.
Other Things to Do Nearby
Once you’re done with your adventures in Gilroy, check out these other places just a few minutes away.
Go Camping at Henry W. Coe State Park
While sections of this magnificent mountain attraction spill over to Gilroy, Henry W. Coe State Park’s main access point is at Morgan Hill.
It’s part of the Diablo Range and covers an area of 89,164 acres.
Within the expansive region, you’d find vast wilderness, high-elevation lakes, scenic trails, stunning waterfalls, and commanding ridges with great views of the area.
It’s one of the best places to go backcountry camping if you’re brave or experienced enough to explore the thick forests.
See the Redwoods at Mt. Madonna County Park
On the western side of Gilroy lies the steep mountains that cover a significant portion of California’s coastline.
The closest one is Mt. Madonna, which is managed as part of Mt. Madonna County Park.
There is a road from Gilroy that leads to the trails of the park, but the main entrance is at Watsonville.
It’s a favorite local attraction, thanks to the towering redwoods of the park.
So while hiking the trails within the 4,605 acre-area, keep your camera out to get epic pictures with the trees.
At the heart of fertile Santa Clara Valley lies Gilroy, an all-around destination for the whole family.
From garlic festivals to epic theme parks, from small museums to expansive lakes, there are so many things to see and do for every preference.
Reference this list when making your itinerary so you won’t miss the top spots.